Generally, hearing loss is considered to be a problem that impacts our personal life. It’s about you and your well being, between you and your hearing specialist. Personal. And that’s true, on an individual level. But hearing loss, when thought about in a broader context, as something that impacts 466 million people, it’s necessary that we also frame it as a public health topic.
Now, generally speaking, that simply means that we should be looking at hearing loss as something that impacts society as a whole. So as a society, we should think about how to manage it.
The Cost of Hearing Loss
William has hearing loss. He just learned last week and against the suggestion of his hearing professional, that he can wait a bit before messing around with hearing aids. Williams job performance, regrettably, is being affected by his hearing loss; it’s been difficult for him to keep up in meetings, it takes him longer to get his work done, and so on.
He also spends a lot more time at home alone. There are just too many levels of conversation for you to keep up with (most people talk too much anyway, he thinks). So rather than going out, William self-isolates.
These decisions will have a cumulative effect as time passes.
- Economic cost: Ignoring his hearing loss can affect his income over time. Some unemployment can be a result of hearing loss as reported by the World Health Organization. Because of this the world economy can lose around $105 billion in lost income and revenue. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, as the effect of that lost income has a ripple effect throughout economic systems.
- Social cost: William misses his family and friends! His social isolation is costing him relationships. His friends could think he is ignoring them because they probably don’t even know about his hearing loss. It can seem like anger or insensitivity. This puts additional stress on their relationships.
What Makes Hearing Loss a Public Health Issue?
While these costs will definitely be felt on a personal level (William might miss his friends or lament his economic position), they also have an influence on everyone else. William isn’t spending as much at local shops because he has less money. With fewer friends, more of William’s care will need to be done by his family. As a whole, his health can become affected and can result in increased healthcare expenses. If he’s not insured, those expenses go to the public. And so, those around William are impacted quite profoundly.
Now multiply William by 466 million and you can get an idea of why public health officials take hearing loss very seriously.
How to Treat Hearing Loss
Luckily, this specific health problem can be addressed in two easy ways: treatment and prevention. When hearing loss is managed properly (normally through the use of hearing aids), the outcome can be quite dramatic:
- The difficulties of your job will be more easily handled.
- Your chances of conditions like dementia, anxiety, depression, and balance issues will be lessened with treatment of hearing loss.
- It will be easier to engage in many social activities if you can hear better.
- Communicating with family and friends will be easier so you will notice your relationships get better.
Dealing with your hearing loss is one way to promote strong health, both physically and mentally. More and more hearing professionals are making a priority of taking care of your hearing which makes a lot of sense.
It’s equally important to think of prevention. Public information campaigns aim at giving people the facts they need to avoid loud, harmful noise. But even everyday noises can lead to hearing loss, such as listening to headphones too loud or mowing the lawn.
There are downloadable apps that can monitor background decibel levels and give you a warning when things get too loud. One way to have a huge impact is to protect the public’s hearing, often with education.
We Can go a Long Way With a Little Help
In some states they’re even extending insurance to address hearing healthcare. good public health policy and strong evidence have inspired this approach. We can considerably affect public health once and for all when we alter our thinking about preventing hearing loss.
And everyone is helped by that.